The number of impoverished households receiving poverty relief from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality increased to more than 110 000 families in July following changes to the qualifying criteria providing crucial respite for struggling citizens.
Exorbitant administration fees to offer this necessary service is also a thing of the past.
Cllr Rory Riordan, Member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for Budget and Treasury, said with the new criteria coming into effect from 1 July an additional 23 173 households qualified for the 8 kilolitres of water, 75 kWh electricity as well as free refuse collection and sewerage. This is in addition to the more than 88 000 residents who qualified prior to the changes.
Speaking at a press conference at Jenny’s Room, Port Elizabeth City Hall, Riordan said: “The situation when we became councillors a year ago was that a household with a joint income of less than two state pensions (approximately R3 000) received the benefit. This means that 80 000 families qualified at the time.
“We started to have a look at the system as it was working. The outcome was great as so many already received these free municipal services but there were major challenges how the system was being administered.
“People had to apply for the Assistance-to-the-Poor, provide supporting letters from their minister of religion or others to state that their application was true and correct. They had to provide proof of income and officials were sent out to go and check. Ward Councillors were also approached for their opinion on the household.
“It meant that 9000 to 10 000 families were on a waiting list awaiting approval for services they were clearly entitled to. Auditing staff had to go all over town with vehicles to check the truthfulness of the applications, costing us R60 million a year to administer and at the end of the day we still had a waiting list of more than 9 000 people which was plainly very frustrating for them and very inappropriate.
“We had to find a way to streamline the process.
“We moved from the old system to a system where people automatically obtains Assistance-to-the-Poor subsidies if the municipal valuation of their house is R100 000 and below. This gives us a system where we are in complete control and we do not need R60 million a year to administer it.
“The municipal valuation is ours. We can literally do it from the records that we have in place on our system,” Cllr Riordan said.
The municipality also has a Debt Relief programme for households with income not exceeding R20 000 as well as various property rates rebates for the elderly, people with disabilities, non-governmental organizations amongst others.
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